Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Day After

Mile Marker 4917:

I love a good snow day.

I love making coffee, lingering over breakfast, simmering soup in the crockpot, and mixing up a recipe for maple chocolate chip cookies.

By 11 a.m. I've made a mess so big it'll take the rest of the day to clean up.  But hey, it's a snow day.  I've got time!

The clouds linger all day long.  Fluttering white flakes turn into sleet pellets on the windows.  Cars slurp slowly down the street.  It's a March snowstorm, and I'm happy to be inside where it's cozy and warm.

The problem isn't the snow day.  It's the day after.

The day when the world starts up again.   Just a normal day, but now snow covered.

Like everyone else, I've got a full day of work and appointments.  So it sounds crazy when I say a haircut presents a dilemma.  Sure, I could postpone it.  But people are out.  Businesses are open.  I want to go.  I need to go.  I'm just not sure how to get there -- which is ironic because it's only 2 blocks away!

I'm not a risk-taker.  I cherish my independence and want to keep it that way.  Walking in the snow and ice can be treacherous for anyone, but especially for amputees.  My prosthetic side doesn't feel the ground, and my knee only bends if I can push against it.  It's a bad combination when the ground is slick.

But how bad is it out there?  I can't see much from my window.

I decide to do a recon mission by car.  A drive-by.

Here's the situation...

The first thing I notice is that the parking spaces are snow-filled and the parked cars have been plowed in.  Even if I wanted to drive to the salon -- which is silly because it's around the corner -- I wouldn't find a place to park.  And even if I did, I wouldn't be able to plod through the piles of snow onto the sidewalk.

So, Plan B.  The sidewalk.  It's mostly shoveled and salted with two questionable intersections.  I think it's doable.  I park my car back at home, re-tie my boots, and head out before I change my mind.

It all goes well for the first 50 yards or so.  The salt makes a pleasant grinding sound beneath my feet.  The block has been shoveled all the way to the corner, and the sidewalk is angled in my favor.  Ok, breathe...

Halfway down Arch Street, I come upon a cobblestone alley.  I stop.  Stand on the curb.  Study it.  It's maybe 10 feet wide with a patch of icy slush at the center.  It looks like a frozen pond, grayish-white, polished to a shine by car tires.   (You'll have to imagine.  I was afraid to reach for my camera!)

I try to calculate how to slide over it.  Then -- wait -- I'm not alone!  A young man approaches in black pants and dress shoes.

"Are you crossing here?" I ask him, looking for a bit of camaraderie, if not a hand.

He glances my way.  No response.  Then he leaps casually over the ice, hurrying on his way.

Well.  If he can do it those shoes...

Gingerly, I test the waters.  Lower my Genium off the curb onto the wet stones, step my right foot onto the frozen patch, and bring my Genium up to match it.  Two more tiny, tentative, shuffling steps and I'm on the other side.  Whew.

I gobble up the next stretch of sidewalk.  Piece of cake.

Next obstacle: crossing Arch.  It's bigger and wider, but mostly snow-free.  I watch the traffic light, waiting through the end of a green, and then a red, so I can start fresh on the next green.  When the time is right, I start across.  The first curb-cut is surprisingly easy.  Just damp and salty.  No problem at all.

But as I reach the other side, I freeze.  The uphill slope to the sidewalk is coated with 5 inches of mushy, oily, slushy snow.  I'd seen it on my drive-by, but it's uglier in person.

Watch your step!

Another guy, walking behind me, stops too.   We stand there for a second, examining the deep footprints and smeared gravel.  I lift my chin out of my down jacket to look up at him.  He looks down at me, eyes peering out from his scarf.

"Need help?" he says.

"Maybe," I say.  Then I grab his wrist without even asking.  Actually, I don't grab.  I don't even pull.  I simply wrap my glove lightly around the edge of his sleeve and use it for balance.  Just in case.

"It's pretty bad," he says.  "Last year, I fell on the ice and cracked a rib."

"Really?" I say.  "I have a prosthetic leg.  It makes things little dicey."

We make our way up the incline and onto the sidewalk, talking the whole time till we reach the salon.  I pause at the door.  We're here.

"Thanks so much," I say. "This is my stop."

He looks a little disappointed, and truthfully, so am I.  I feel bad for making him go on alone.  A new friend kind of melts the ice.  I probably should have kept walking!

But the day must go on.

My parking space
in South Philly
I survive a trip (by car) to the prosthetist's office, the post office and work.  For each leg of the journey, I plan ahead, leave early, and allow plenty of time.

I take every step with the utmost care.  And while it's not exactly fun, when I get through it, it does feel like an achievement.

Driving home that night, I see a FedEx truck trying to turn into a slush-covered alley.  I see a man chipping away at his icy sidewalk with a tool that looks like a garden hoe.  And I see more snowflakes swirling in the headlights.

I think of that man who helped me today.  He had no idea how much it meant to me -- on this hazardous, worrisome "day after."

Things could be worse, I think.  Much worse. 

It could be February.

3 comments:

  1. Wow....I am so there with you. Your stories are always so honest and from that real place inside all of us. You and your stories always make my day a little better.

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  2. Thanks Becca! I think this late dose of winter has taken its toll on all of us!!

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  3. That guy was nice! :) That makes me happy!

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